Eager to be quick on the draw, the US Navy has allocated new funds toward its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) missiles on 26 June 2024.

These future, hypersonic boost-glide missiles offer quicker, longer-range strikes with enhanced survivability against enemy defences: CPS missiles will be manoeuvrable while travelling at speeds exceeding Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

The US defence prime Lockheed Martin manages the CPS programme; the new contract modification will provide $534m to the supplier to support engineering, development and testing. Work under this undefinitised contract is expected to be completed on 19 June 2025.

CPS plans in action

Plans are in place to integrate this next-generation missile system onto the service’s Zumwalt-class (DDG 1000) destroyers – the first entered service in 2016, another was commissioned in 2019, while the third and final unit is expected to enter service in 2027 – as well as Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines (SSN 774).

Lockheed Martin originally secured a contract exceeding $2bn in value from the Navy to deploy the CPS weapon system on Zumwalt destroyers in February 2023. It will supply launcher systems, weapon control and all-up rounds, and provide platform integration support for the naval platform. 

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman performed a successful live-fire test of a hypersonic missile system in support of the CPS programme in May 2021. Credit: Lockheed Martin via Naval Technology.

Partnering the CPS with the stealth and mobility of the Zumwalt ships will have a competitive edge in alluding adversaries from being able to anticipate where a shot is coming from on long range radar. The integration will deliver the first sea-based hypersonic strike capability to the US. 

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In addition, the system will also have land applications for the US Army, referred to as their ‘Dark Eagle’ programme.

Slow development

Hypersonics are forecast to grow to a greater share of the missiles and missile defence market throughout the coming decade. GlobalData intelligence noted that the CPS programme dominated US proposed spending in 2023, accounting for 44.1% of the missile defence budget.

While appropriations increase, the CPS has faced some development challenges. It has already failed two tests: first in October 2021 and in July 2022.

Currently, the US is prioritising spending on hypersonic glide vehicle designs rather than hypersonic cruise missiles, accounting for 78.9% of the proposed budget in 2023. However, such platforms are in the early stages of development.